Phoenix Jones has been patrolling Seattle’s streets for years, in a full-on supersuit and mask. He's a real life superhero, equipped with bullet-proof body armor that resembles something from the pages of a Marvel comic book, mace, a nightstick and a taser, he wanders the streets at night, watching for crime.
Don't believe us? See for yourself:
There are ten members of his crime-fighting unit, but Jones receives much of the media coverage, for good reason; he’s naïve, exuberant to a fault, photogenic, and personable. This fantastic interview from last year, by GQ, details the trials and tribulations faced by a real-life superhero; hospitalizations, tense confrontations with drug dealers, and frequent non-crimes (the interview details a “confrontation” with a man who dropped a clear baggie in front of another man—it turned out to be a pretzel bag).
But now, Phoenix Jones faces an unanticipated new challenge: a real-life supervillain, calling himself Rex Velvet.
The video is very well done, featuring ominous mustaches, bowler hats, an eyepatch, and a healthy dose of hilarious, satirical villainy. Taken out of context, it looks very much like something out of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along blog. The viewer is left wondering—will our hero and villain have an epic showdown? Will there be a confrontation, as the video suggests? Will there be a response?
On the one hand, our inner nerds are jumping up and down and clapping at the dramatic reveal of a villainous foil. On the other hand, our more mature selves can’t help but be a little sad.
Rex Velvet makes a reference to miscellaneous wrong-doing at the beginning of the video, but aside from that he clearly has one goal in mind: to discredit Phoenix Jones (and pick up some fame along the way). Behind the showmanship and the theatrics (which are, admittedly, excellent) there is a very real message to the real-life superhero—go home. Take off your suit. Let policemen do their jobs. Retire.
That prospect is a little bit sad. Is Phoenix Jones doing more harm than good, as Rex Velvet says? It's difficult to know. We'd hate to be harassed for dropping a bag of pretzels, for example. How many real, unambiguous crimes are there? On the other hand, are the police able to stop crime the same way (and is acting outside of the rules acceptable in that case)? Phoenix Jones got his start after his car was broken into and his stepson was injured by the broken glass. Another incident involved a bar fight, where no one stepped forward to do anything until Jones put on a mask and dove into the fray. Sometimes he gets arrested. Other times, he’s a hero. But he’s always a symbol. For better or for worse, he’s a call to action; a call to change.
So what happens to that message when you have a supervillain? Will said supervillain actually commit crimes? (I’m guessing not, but one never knows.) Should Phoenix Jones respond? It would be really cool. But would it undermine his goals?
No one can blame Rex Velvet for looking to gain some fame; clearly, Phoenix Jones and his team have more than a touch of narcissism themselves. And his message is interesting. Do real-life superheroes actually help anything? They speak to an innocence and a clear sense of right and wrong that may not actually exist. But, there’s a reason that the justice system exists; to curb subjective “justice” carried out by individuals, and ensure fairness for everyone as much as possible.
Fair or not, of the growing number of ordinary citizens donning costumes in the U.S., he’s the most visible. As mentioned above, he’s enthusiastic, likeable, and takes a really good photo—therefore, he’s the one that gets the supervillain and must deal with that.
It will be very interested to see how this story develops. In the meantime, while we ponder the wisdom and the usefulness of masked, citizen superheroes, in our hearts, we will cheer for Phoenix Jones.
Whose side are you on?